Play, exploration and creativity

I have taught Math in a Teach For India classroom for 2 years. I have spent a year on innovation and creativity with kids, mentoring kids and designing challenges with the aim to keep the innate abilities of curiosity, playfulness, imagination and creativity alive, which most of people lose very early in their lives. I am currently designing travel journeys and spending some time deepening my love for math.

Amidst all of this, there’s one most important observation and realisation that i have had.

It’s only through play, exploration and curiosity-filled learning that something beautiful can be created.

You might be able to create something of economic value without the above, but to create something which transcends time, something which is really beautiful and touches the hearts of people can come only through a mind which is free of the burdens of outcomes. Words like these sometimes tend to bring fields like Music, Art and poetry to the imagination. But they are not the only places where beauty is to be found.

Whether you are a software developer, an educator, a doctor, an engineer or a math student, a writer, a blogger; if there has ever been a time when you have detached yourself with the outcomes and fully immersed in the process, you would have felt long-lasting joy. That process is a usually an insightful and a wonderful learning experience. Whatever creation comes out of it is inspiring, and there’s a connection to it, and that’s what makes it beautiful.

The education in our schools focuses too much on outcomes, robbing the kids of the immense joy and the sense of wonder about the world. All of this is too profound in Math classes, where the focus on mundane things like, speed, urgency and accuracy kills the beauty and wonder of real world of mathematical thinking, patterns and ideas.

My experiences with Math teaching have shown me that children can have so many wonderful ideas, and have so much fun doing math if they are given the freedom to play around with open ended problems, the freedom to make mistakes and mess up, the safe environment to struggle, and not be pressurised by the outcomes or performance.

In my next posts, I will be sharing some examples of display of amazing mathematical thinking and ideas by the kids, and different ways teachers can bring more joy, creativity and conversations in Math classes.

Every person deserves an opportunity to fall in love with Math.

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